Ethical Mitigation of Climate Change

The question on how to manage climate change and effectively mitigate the challenge is one that raises a lot of debate. The preamble of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) calls for all countries to unite in dealing with climate change. According to the UNFCCC, the responsibility that each country ought to take correlates with each state’s differentiated capability to fight climate change (Haifeng et. al. 100). Therefore, the ethical issue surrounding this mechanism has brought much debate.

What the UNFCCC seeks to bring out is that the industrialized countries have an obligation to provide finances and technology that will assist in reducing the emissions in developing countries, while at the same time coming up with measures to reduce their emissions. The industrialized countries have benefited from the gas emissions; hence, the question is whether it is ethical for them to bear the bulk of the cost for mitigation (Medvecky 1120).

In December 2015, parties to the UNFCCC met in Paris to deliberate on how to deal with climate change and the responsibility that each country should take in dealing with this catastrophe. In line with the negotiations, each country ought to publicly outline the mechanisms that it intends to put in place to deal with climate change after the year 2020 (Jacobs 317). These actions are known as the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, which help cope with the disastrous changes in climate by avoiding further global warming (Hoad 318). In line with this, the United States pledged to reduce its emissions to 26-28% below the levels of 2005 by the year 2025 (Haifeng and Chiyuan 102). This is an example of a developed nation that is on the path towards mitigating climate change. China, being a developing nation, has also submitted its reduction targets, whereas its intention is that by 2030, the emissions will reduce by 60-65% compared to the 2005 levels (Li 49).

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Even with the commitment that countries like the United States have shown towards managing climate change, this is not enough to adequately mitigate the situation. The ethical debate continues, thus emphasizing that the level of the commitment towards reducing gas emissions should be equivalent to the country’s share in global emissions (Wapner 327). This is, in fact, the requirement for all countries that have signed the UNFCCC.

The lenses of justice and equity demand that nations start looking beyond their selfish interests. It is important for nations to consider the countries that are most vulnerable to climate change and make it their moral and ethical obligation to take sufficient measures to solve the problem (Jacobs 316).

Developed nations have a responsibility towards those that will be affected by climate change (Tambo 153). Currently, those who are mostly affected by climate change are the poor people in developing countries whose contribution to climate change is minimal. It is unfortunate that the most vulnerable populations are not in a position to protect themselves, so that they only hope that those contributing to the catastrophe would see their moral obligation towards them and lower their pollutant gases emissions.

Developing nations argue that the climate change policies should not be made at the expense of their development. However, even if this is a cheaper path towards industrialization, it is also a dangerous way (Li 49). Industrialized nations, having contributed greatly to greenhouse gas emissions, ought to finance and help in transferring technology to these countries to avoid going through this cheaper but dangerous path (Duus-Otterström 656). Dealing with climate change is an urgent matter, whereas the basis of this urgency is beyond the environment in that it is now time for individuals to take the responsibility to ensure that all people are safe and live dignified lives.


Works Cited 

Duus-Otterström, Göran. “Allocating Climate Adaptation Finance: Examining Three Ethical Arguments for Recipient Control.” International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law & Economics, vol. 16, no. 5, 2016, pp.655-670.

Haifeng, Deng, and Chen Chiyuan. “Common and Symmetrical Responsibility in Climate Change: A Bridging Mechanism for Adaptation and Mitigation.” Journal of East Asia & International Law, vol. 9, no. 1, 2016, pp.99-119.

Hoad, Darren. “The 2015 Paris Climate Agreement: Outcomes and Their Impacts on Small Island States.” Island Studies Journal, vol. 11, no. 1, 2016, pp.315-320.

Jacobs, Michael. “High Pressure for Low Emissions: How Civil Society Created the Paris Climate Agreement.” Juncture, vol. 22, no. 4, 2016, pp.314-323.

Li, Anthony H.F. “Hopes of Limiting Global Warming? China and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.” China Perspectives, no. 1, 2016, pp.49-54.

Medvecky, Fabien, et al. “Examining the Role of Carbon Capture and Storage through an Ethical Lens.” Science & Engineering Ethics, vol. 20, no. 4, 2014, pp.1111-1128.

Tambo, Ernest, et al. “Tackling Air Pollution and Extreme Climate Changes in China: Implementing the Paris Climate Change Agreement.” Environment International, vol. 95, 2016, pp.152-156.

Wapner, Paul. “Ethical Enhancement in an Age of Climate Change.” Ethics & International Affairs, vol. 28, no. 3, 2014, pp.325-334.